President Reuven Rivlin, accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, made a three-stop, three-day visit to Europe last week aimed at garnering support against the ICC, as well as against the possibility that Iran will attempt to rejoin the 2015 nuclear accord.
In Paris, for example, the two met on Thursday with President Emmanuel Macron. Kohavi briefed the French leader on the situation in Lebanon, warning that Israel’s northern neighbor has become hostage to Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization.
Lebanon has lost control of its internal politics and its security to Hezbollah, said Kohavi, emphasizing that France – which has a special interest in Lebanon – must become prominent in the international effort to see that Beirut’s reforms are carried out and that Hezbollah is marginalized.
Hezbollah, he added, is in possession of thousands of rockets and missiles which are stored in the heart of the civilian population and are intended for use against Israel. “The IDF is doing everything possible to prevent this from happening,” he said.
In Vienna the day before, Rivlin told Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen that the international community needs to recognize the situation with Iran, and take an uncompromising position against its nuclear plans and its continued support of terrorist organizations.
“This is where we need the intervention of the international community,” Rivlin insisted, and “not in the field of international law, which is being cynically exploited for political means in order to weaken the State of Israel.”
The diplomatic blitz took place at the same time that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was in Moscow for talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss the situation in Syria as well as ways to isolate Iran.
All of these visits stem from a genuine concern that Israel could soon find itself isolated on multiple fronts. The first is from the ICC, which has launched a criminal probe against the Jewish state for the IDF’s conduct during the 2014 Gaza War, the 2018 Gaza border conflict and the settlement enterprise.
In addition, it is no secret that the new administration in the United States under President Joe Biden is looking to relaunch talks with the Iranians, with the declared objective of either renewing the JCPOA of 2015, known as the Iran nuclear deal, or reaching a new, “slightly improved” one.
In Israel, there is consensus that a new deal would need to include Israeli concerns and that it would be preferable if Jerusalem works with the international community and not against its efforts to reach one.
This is a shift from 2015 when Israel was the fiercest opponent to the nuclear accord signed in Vienna, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveling to the US on the eve of an Israeli election to address Congress and attack then president Barack Obama’s diplomatic effort.
It is unclear if and to what extent Israel will be able to influence new talks between the superpowers and Iran. Nevertheless, the decision to try instead of just attacking is preferred – and shows an understanding in Jerusalem that the policy of 2015 did not succeed.
Ultimately, the deal went into effect. And while the US under former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, other countries stuck with it and Iran continues today to enrich uranium to higher levels and in larger quantities. To a large extent, it seems that Iran today is closer to a bomb than it was in 2015.
The international community must take a tougher approach in a new deal with Iran that takes Israel’s security concerns into account.
A deal that simply postpones Tehran’s arrival at a nuclear capability by 10, 15 or even 20 years will not be enough. That just kicks the can down the road for a bit of time.
Instead, a new deal needs to include real, enforceable restrictions, confront Iran’s ballistic missile program and address its continued support of malign actors in the Middle East like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Houthis.
The Western world should not underestimate its power and influence. Iran is weak, isolated and vulnerable. It can be held accountable and taken to task – if the world decides to really do so.